Agonies in a Craft Tent

Let me tell you about my weekend – another craft fair. Not my favourite activity. The thing is, writing books, creating a whole world with quirky characters and exciting happenings, is fabulous – best job in the world. However, taking those books, and trying to persuade people to risk a few hours and read one, is very scary. But there is little point in doing one without forcing yourself to do the other. This is how it tends to go.

First of all, is the venue. Usually you’re provided with a space in a marquee, booked at immense cost, which all adds to the pressure of how many books you need to sell to not lose a ton of money. The space can vary in quality. Sometimes you’re placed next to an aggressive seller, who has set her table well over the boundaries, and has squeezed your space to a tiny square. Sometimes the organiser has been more canny, and has marked on the floor exactly where each space begins and ends. There are good pitches – towards the centre of a walkway, and bad pitches – right next to the door (because people entering the tent don’t usually want to stop and listen to your sales pitch as soon as they get inside, and if you are the last stall, they are already thinking about leaving by the time they reach you. Though last is slightly better than first.) If it’s raining, you often get drips of water plopping onto your books. If it’s dry, you sometimes get condensation (see previous sentence). Sometimes it’s really hot, and then the air becomes too thick to breathe and after a couple of hours you are very red-faced and sweaty, and no one wants to approach your stall.

After you’ve set up, you can walk round and have a look at the other stalls. These tend to vary. There is the scowling old man who sits opposite the entrance, surrounded by his wife’s knitted cardigans. There are homemade stands: twigs stuck into flowerpots hanging with necklaces; husband-made constructions that would withstand a nuclear explosion; and the carefully selected textures and colours that make up the artists’ stalls. Most stalls represent hours upon hours of work, and everyone is feeling slighty desperate about trying to sell things, and trying hard not to show it.

There is lots of tension involved with selling books. Unlike jewellery and knitwear and paintings, they aren’t sold by how good they look, so the only way to sell is to tell people what they’re about. Not easy. You sit there, watching for potential customers, hoping for a flicker of eye-contact. It’s very bad form to start speaking while they’re looking at your neighbour’s stall, so you have to wait until they have moved into the space you ‘own’. These are moments of real tension, as you watch a couple meander around the tent, buying trinkets at other stalls (so they’re spending money today), they look intelligent (so sure to be readers); they walk nearer while I wait, ready with my patter, throat dry with nerves, waiting while they examine the stall nearest to me then, at last, they begin to approach, they glance towards my books, they turn to each other to make a comment, I begin to approach them and – they leave the marquee. I breath out, sip some water, wait for the next person.

And then there are the low points. The customer who arrives right after you’ve taken a swig of coke who you greet with a loud belch (she didn’t buy a book). Or the customers who arrive with a football team of uncontrolled kids who touch everything and ruin your display, and probably can’t read anyway. Or the owner of the small dog who lets it wee against your tablecloth. Not to mention the joys of portaloos. Or, depending on the fair, the happiness of sitting right next to where the bagpipes are playing.

However, I survived, and lots of lovely people did buy my books. There were also some interesting chats, like the one with the tiny old woman who told me she used to teach Camilla PE, and the palace have done wonders with her appearance, and she was always a very lazy girl who couldn’t do a handstand properly.

The problem is, selling books is personal. Every rejection feels like a put-down, and every sale brightens my day. So why not take a look at my books today – if you buy one, you’ll cheer me up immensely.

Thank you for reading. All my books are available on Kindle and in bookshops. UK Amazon link below.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-E.-Thompson/e/B07CL8HV95/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

 

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

Email from a stranger

I received this message, which was lovely, so I thought I would share it with you:

Comment: Dear Anne
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading “Clara”. I was very much taken by the explanation you gave when you told me about your book at the East Grinstead book shop.
Some books stay with you when you have read them, and Clara was one of those for me.
I found Clara fascinating. I think there is a little bit of Clara in all of us, particularly in the way we all do try and manipulate others. However, unlike Clara, we will feel remorse for doing so.
At first I found the character of Clara intriguing as to how her mind worked. Then, the further she went, the more I started to feel uneasy about what she was doing. However, that then changed again when she went to India where she became a bit of an anti-heroine. I wondered what it would be like to try and communicate with her; knowing that would never be possible with someone like her. As soon as you were of no use she would just drop you.
Some books I buy to stretch the mind, others simply for the enjoyment as “page turners”. Clara was one of those books that did both for me. Thank you.
I went back to the bookshop today and purchased Joanna and Hidden Faces, and will continue to look out for your work.

Kind regards

Philip

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 Clara – A Good Psychopath? by Anne E. Thompson
ISBN 9780995463257
Published by The Cobweb Press
Available from book shops and Amazon.

Have you bought a copy yet?

 

 

Never Trust a Quiet Bull, or an Unloaded Shotgun…

There are two things a sensible farmer never trusts: a quiet bull and an unloaded shotgun.

I went back to the farm, for further research on the book that is in my head. I have lots of ideas, and snippets of stories, but I don’t yet know enough about my characters, or how they live, to begin writing. I should really visit a few different farms, but asking farmers (who I don’t know) is too scary, so for now I’m only visiting one – a beef farm in the next village.

I chatted to the couple who run the farm. They’d had a near disaster earlier in the week, when all the full-grown cows escaped and were heading off towards the road. The farmer called to them, as he ran away from them, into their pen. When they heard his voice they stopped running, and then turned to follow him. The farmer told me how important it is that he talks to them when they are calves, handles them, and becomes someone familiar and safe. Then, if something frightens them, they will look to him for security.

It seems that security is very important to cows. They are naturally very vulnerable to predators, and only their size and the herd can protect them. So they have big eyes that can see all around, and they shy away from anything unusual, any potential danger. Which means that everything has to be introduced slowly, and from an early age.

So when the farmer has new calves, he takes time teaching them how to go into the cattle truck. He tempts them in with food (always easier to lead than to drive from behind, apparently). They will practise going up the ramp, being shut in, even going for little drives. This means that later, when there is a humungous fat bull with opinions, he will be quite happy to be taken in the cattle truck. Which makes life easier for everyone.

The farmer said that you should never trust a bull. Even when they appear to be quiet and friendly, they can turn in a second. He also said you never assume a shotgun is unloaded, even when you know it is.

I went to watch the cows being fed. I would like to say ‘helped’, but I really just got in the way. All the cows are in, because the weather’s too wet for them to be out on clay soil. There were some new calves, just a couple of weeks old. They were still mainly drinking milk, so we (he) mixed the powder with warm water, and poured it into containers so they could suck. If too many calves crowded to the same place, we had to move them along, ensuring they all had a good feed. Moving them along sounds easier than it was – a sucking calf is very reluctant to move, and it took a lot of force for me to shove their heads to a space so each of them could reach a teat. While we fed them, the two farm dogs kept trying to lap the milk out the buckets. Any that was spilt (that was from my buckets) they licked up instantly.

The calves I saw in the autumn have grown loads. They still look young, but are nearly full-grown. They were in a large straw pen, and were fed dry food. They had to stick their heads through bars to reach it. They’re fed a mixture of rolled barley and protein pellets. The barley is grown on the farm, and if it’s not milled first, it passes straight through them, without them absorbing any nutrients.

 

There were some full grown cattle too. They went outside into the yard to be fed. They’ll soon be ready to leave, which I don’t think I would cope with if I was a farmer. I’m not sure how you don’t bond with the animals, and then find it impossible to send them off to the abattoir.

I saw where cows have their hair cut (because their winter coats would be too hot when they’re in the barn), and heaps of feed for the winter. I can tell you that cows have cold wet noses, and very rough tongues, and they are bemused when you take their photograph.

I also saw stacks of hay from other farms, which are going into a hay-growing competition and were waiting to be judged. Apparently very green hay, with very little leaf content, makes a winner. Who knew?

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Thank you for reading. Don’t forget that CLARA – A Good Psychopath? is available at a 33% discount, from me  (£7.95 with free UK postage), until 31st March. Send me a message via the contact form below. (The form is sent to me, it does not appear on this blog.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Radio Interview

I have just returned from being interviewed on Meridian FM. All very scary! Actually, the scary bit was not the interview, but trying to decide whether to brave the weather and drive there. All week the forecast has been dire, but we’ve had relatively little snow, and although it’s cold, the roads seemed clear. But it is still possible to worry all night about sliding off the road, meeting unexpected drifts, and crashing the car.

I got up early, spoke to Samantha Day (who had invited me onto her programme) and decided to risk it. First I had to take water up to the birds, because the pond has frozen and they’re all shut in a cage for safety. Their drinking water is continually freezing, so I have to continually top it up. The silly ducks then sit in it and splash it everywhere, so I’m not sure how much they drink, but I try.

Drive to East Grinstead was fine, no skids. Went up to the little studio, and chatted to Samantha between songs. My throat kept getting dry – not sure if due to nerves or a sore throat. Glad I had water to sip while the music was playing. Chatting on the radio is easy, it’s just the same as talking to a friendly person in a room, you soon forget about all the microphones and computers and the thousands of potential listeners.

I chatted about my book, how I wrote it, and what I discovered during my visits to the slums of India. I think I spoke more about psychopaths and India and Tearfund than I did about my book. You sort of lose track of why you’re there and have a nice chat. But that’s okay, hopefully the listeners were interested. Hopefully some of them were interested enough to now go and buy the book.

One thing that intrigued me was an envelope, stuck to the wall, which said, “Open in the event of a royal death”. If I worked there I would definitely have had a sneaky look inside. I guess it tells the presenters what to say and play on that day.

I spoke for about an hour (with music and weather bulletin breaks) and then thanked Samantha and drove home. On Saturday I’m in The Bookshop in East Grinstead, signing copies of CLARA – A Good Psychopath? I was able to advertise the event, so people can wrap up warm and meet me there.

Time for a coffee now.

Thank you for reading.

If you can’t make it to The Bookshop but would like a copy of Clara, fill out the contact form below. Available at 33% discount until 31st March (£7.95 with free UK postage). Order a copy today.

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 Kia refusing to come inside. She’s convinced that if she sits there for long enough, I will give up and go outside to play!

Was St. Paul a Psychopath?

When I was researching JOANNA, I discovered what it meant to be a psychopath. Born with an under-developed frontal lobe in the brain, a psychopath was destined to live their lives unable to experience emotional empathy, unable to feel guilt, unable to love. I listened for many hours to psychopaths talking, I read copious studies by neuroscientists, and I even managed to find two mothers of psychopaths who were prepared to talk to me. By the time I came to write JOANNA, I knew how a psychopath would think and behave, and I could imagine what it would be like to live with one.

However, the whole time I was writing JOANNA, striving to make an interesting story that would also show the reader everything I had learnt, I had a nagging doubt. If someone was born a psychopath, were they doomed? What did the disorder mean from a spiritual point of view? Psychopathy is a mental disorder, not an illness. It cannot be cured. It is a genetic condition, it cannot be prevented. Whilst the vast majority of psychopaths are not killers, and are never convicted of any crime, they will still be difficult people to live with. They will still be ‘bad’ people. So, what does that mean in terms of Christianity? Could a psychopath be a Christian?

Now, I believe that whilst God can, and does, sometimes heal people of physical disabilities, in the vast majority of cases, he does not. So a blind person who becomes a Christian will be a blind Christian. A Downs Syndrome person who becomes a Christian will be a Christian who has Downs Syndrome. God can use those situations, but he rarely changes them. As psychopathy is a physical condition, I think it unlikely that God would necessarily heal a psychopath. So what would a psychopathic Christian look like?

I began to read the Bible with this in mind. I knew that a psychopath would be unaffected by physical cruelty towards others. They would be ambitious for their own advancement, and possibly a leader within either the established religion or start their own. They would have no obvious emotional ties, and be quite capable of rejecting anyone who they felt was holding them back, even if that person had made huge sacrifices in order to follow them. They would have no fear, and be able to walk into dangerous situations, even if they knew it was risky. In fact, as thrill-seekers, psychopaths will often do things which they know hold high risk. Psychopaths are often eloquent, and their lack of fear makes them excellent public speakers. There is something mesmerising about them, people cannot help but listen to them (look on YouTube for clips of Charles Manson or Ted Bundy speaking – you will not be bored).

But what about God? Could a psychopath follow God? Well, a psychopath’s main motivation is to look after themselves. So, if they had an experience which proved to them beyond all doubt that God existed, they would definitely decide to follow him. They would do whatever was necessary to ensure they were on the ‘winning side’. They would not risk their soul, not if they knew, absolutely, that God was real.

Now, when we read the accounts about Paul, he shows many of these traits. Was he a psychopath? We do not have enough information to make that statement, and certainly some of his writings suggest that he was not. But I think it’s possible. I wanted to try and explore this further, so I wrote CLARA. As I wrote, I used the knowledge I had gleaned about psychopaths, and I very much had the character of St Paul in mind as I wove the story. The character of Clara is not St. Paul – but I think you will notice some similarities.

CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
The Cobweb Press

I hope it is also a book you will enjoy, though at times it makes for uncomfortable reading. It is exciting, but there are funny moments. It shows how someone who is very bad, can achieve something that is very good. Are you prepared to be challenged? This is not a cosy portrayal of Christianity, and some people will find the ideas disturbing.

Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, it is available at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). Payment instructions will be sent with the book – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?

 

 

 

If you prefer to buy from Amazon – it is available as a Kindle book in most countries – the UK link is below:

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anneethompson.com

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The Launch of CLARA – A Good Psychopath?

Hello, how are you? My weekend was dominated by the launch of CLARA. It has all been very exciting, and began a few week’s ago, so I’ll tell you about it (because one day, you might be having a book launch of your own).

CLARA is the second book which I have been brave enough to have a launch party for. You have to be brave, because writing a book involves hours living inside your own head, and a book launch involves talking about the book to other people – which does not come very naturally to most authors. However, as I discovered with my previous books, if you opt to not have a launch, then some of the friends who would buy your books, find that local shops have sold out, or they never actually get round to ordering a copy, so you lose sales. After 18 months writing and rewriting and editing a book, you want people to read it. (Plus it’s nice to start paying off some of your debt!)

The first decision is time. I waited until the books were safely in my house, and I had checked they were good, before advertising my book launch. I know some authors are braver, especially those who use a printing company that isn’t in the UK, and I have heard scary stories about everything being in place for a book launch…except for the books.

Once I had set the date – last Saturday – I needed to decide venue. At the launch of JOANNA, I had invited absolutely everyone who I thought might be interested. To be honest, of all the family, neighbours, friends, people who heard me on the radio, people who saw the event in the newspaper or on fliers, only my friends or friends-of-friends actually came. (Plus my family, but none of them bought the book as I’d given them copies.) I therefore decided that although the local community hall was a nice venue, and although we’d had sufficient people to fill it (about 50 people) it would be much more relaxing to have it at home. I have a big kitchen area, which is often used for church functions, we would use it for the launch. So I didn’t have to worry about transporting glasses and cupcakes, or cleaning up afterwards, or exchanging keys. And it wouldn’t be embarrassing if only my mum came.

I decided to serve cupcakes, with either wine or cups of tea, depending on what people wanted. (At my last launch, I served wine, but most people wanted soft drinks.) I began making cupcakes. I have an excellent cupcakes recipe book, and the cakes freeze very well, so I could make them ahead of time. The kitchen began to smell lovely, and Husband began moaning that no cakes were available for eating. It coincided with a cold spell, which was unhelpful as the chickens all stopped laying in protest, and I actually had to go out and buy some eggs.

I made invitations and bookmarks. We have a printer at home, so that was easy (well, it was easy once I’d persuaded Husband to make them). I wanted a poster of the book, which I could also use when I’m doing book-signings or selling at fairs, so I contacted Chloe (who took a photo for the book cover) and she sent me a photograph I could use. (I couldn’t use the final cover version, as the quality has been reduced to make it suitable for printing.)

Then I invited lots of people, contacted the local press, asked people to write reviews, and waited. I wrote a couple of blog pieces too, as most of you won’t be able to attend the launch, but I want you all to know what CLARA is about, so that you want to order a copy too.

The day of the launch was very scary, wondering if anyone would actually come. I had borrowed an urn to boil the hot water, so was ready if loads of people came – or just one (my mum had been told it was compulsory attendance).

It was fine. There were about 40 people, some were good friends who had travelled for miles, others were people who I didn’t actually know. The local journalist came, and took some photos, and I gave a short talk about how I wrote the book. It was exhausting – because I find public events difficult – but everyone was very kind, and the event was a success. Most importantly, I sold lots of books. In fact, some people who have read my previous books bought two copies – one for a friend. Have you bought a copy yet?

Thank you for reading. Have a good week.
Love,
Anne x

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CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
The Cobweb Press

Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, I can sell copies at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send me a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). I will then send a book, and enclose payment instructions – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?

 

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If you prefer to buy from Amazon – it is available as a Kindle book in most countries, the UK link is:

Writing About a Different Culture

It was with some trepidation that I began to write CLARA. I had recently returned from a visit to see the work of ActionAid in the slums of India. I had visited women who have incredibly tough lives, sat in their homes, listened to their stories, and it affected me. I wanted to tell the world what I had seen and heard, and weaving it into a story seemed the best way for me to do this.

Over the next 18 months, I visited India several times. I contacted Tearfund, and they showed me the work they are doing amongst women in the Red Light District. I met women who had been trafficked, I chatted to sex workers, I wandered through slums. My eyes were hungry, as I absorbed what I was seeing.

However, how does one write about a culture that is vastly different to ones own? Does an author even have the right to try and describe things that they have never experienced? Well, yes, obviously – otherwise all crime writers would be convicted criminals, and all historical fiction writers would be time-travellers. But to do the subject justice takes a lot of time, hours of research, and some good advisers. I made some good friends in India, and as I wrote the book, when I came to a point where I needed information I could ask for help. Issues such as: Do people in the slums have shopping bags? Do they possess more than one set of clothes? Do they drink tea out of mugs?

However, every time that I visited India, every book that I read about India, I learnt something new. I sat in homes, I visited schools, I laughed with women moaning about their families (because whilst it’s tough, there’s a lot of laughter in slums too). There was always more I could add to my book. I began to wonder, was it even possible to write about a place when I had never actually lived there? But, here’s the thing, as I discovered more about the culture, I also started to ‘not notice’ things. Sights and sounds and smells which had bombarded me when I first arrived, began to be normal, part of what I expected, and I stopped being conscious of them. I was writing a novel which would mostly be read by people who do not live in India. Many of them will never have visited India. I therefore needed to include all those details which were obvious, different, unusual. Those details which over time, people stop noticing.

 

CLARA is also set partly in New jersey. I have lived there, but actually, in many ways, writing about life there was more difficult, because I had forgotten all the things that struck me when we first arrived. I had to refer to old diaries, so that I could see the culture afresh, and describe it to my readers. Which made me realise that, although a story written by a foreigner would have less depth than one written by a resident, it would also perhaps be easier to understand for those readers who are experiencing the country solely through the eyes of the characters.

 

I had, initially, planned that Clara herself would be an Indian. However, I soon realised that this would be impossible, I could not accurately represent her thoughts and feelings. Clara needed to be English, because I could show an English person’s reactions and thoughts to India. I needed Clara to be the one describing India, because then the book would be authentic.

When the first manuscript was completed, I sent it to a friend, who checked for anything which might have been offensive to someone living in India, or anything which jarred from a cultural perspective. She suggested some changes – mainly names – it transpires that a Google search for “Indian names” results in names that Indian people do not recognise!

In conclusion, yes, it is possible to write about a culture which is different to your own. But you need to be immersed in that culture for a while, and you need a lot of help from people who have lived it. Writing CLARA was a challenge, but hugely rewarding. I hope you will enjoy reading it.

 

CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
Published by The Cobweb Press

 Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, I can sell copies at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send me a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). I will then send a book, and enclose payment instructions – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?

Thank you for reading.

Anne x

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